I’m not a gigantic fan of ever-more-ubiquitous quadcopters. They are annoying little beasts, crude, buzzy, and ugly. The main use cases so far have no appeal (Selfies? Snooping on neighbors? Package delivery? Racing? Who cares.) and I don’t look forward to the inevitable weaponization that will soon turn every city into a war zone.
On the other hand, a few people are doing interesting, useless things with UAVs.
Case in point, Verity Labs out of ETH Zurich.
This group has some of the best engineering talent, and has done some groundbreaking (practical) work. But the interesting thing is their entertainment projects in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil (who know a thing or two about magical effects).
This month, the group has released a white paper on “Drones shows: Creative potential and best practices”, which is mostly about safety and reliability. Waibel and colleagues describe the potential to create “sculptures in space”, which “express emotion and to endow individual or collective, floating characters with personality.” (, p. 5)
Quite. Far more interesting that the 99th iteration of the “watch my neighbor sunbathing” application.
In December, Lea Pereyre described what she terms “drone costume design”. At first, I thought this was about augmented clothing for humans, but is, in fact, about decorative clothing for UAVs, with is also super, super cool.
She illustrates a number of designs, most of which look rather bio-inspired, kind of like jellyfish and flowers. The common feature is fronds or drapes that respond to the device moving through the air, creating elegant and beautiful movements. These designs are really cool, and almost, but not quite, hide the ugly drone. (In the stage shows, they play music loud enough to mask the irritating whine of the motors.)
As far as I can tell, these “costumes” have no practical value and, indeed, render the device nearly useless for any other purpose. But they are pretty, inspirational, and simply wonderful to see.
I hope to see some of these in person soon.
- Waibel, Markus, Bill Keays, and Federico Augugliaro, Drones shows: Creative potential and best practices. Verity Studios, 2017. http://veritystudios.com/whitepaper/